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Defenders of Wildlife Welcomes Recovery Plan for Ocelot; Concerns Regarding Habitat Threats Remain


AUGUST 15, 2016

Media Contacts:

Rebecca Bullis, Defenders of Wildlife: rbullis@defenders.org or (202) 772-0295

TUCSON, Ariz. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a recovery plan that will guide restoration and protection of the ocelot populations in Arizona and Texas and in bordering Mexican states of Sonora and Tamaulipas. The ultimate goal of the plan is to increase the number of ocelots in both nations, protect their habitat and create connecting habitat corridors between Arizona and Sonora and between Texas and Tamaulipas. This unique endangered cat ranges as far south as Argentina, but in the U.S. is found only in two small areas of Arizona and Texas.  

Statement by Rob Peters, senior Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife

It is encouraging to see a plan that sets quantitative targets for ocelot recovery – 1,200 animals in the Texas-Tamaulipas area and 1,000 in the Arizona-Sonora. To reach these targets, wildlife agencies must decrease deaths and increase important thorn scrub habitat, goals that will require funding and binational cooperation. A serious question is whether there is the political will to provide the necessary resources and limit development.

“Big threats to ocelot recovery in the U.S. include giant open-pit mines like the Rosemont and Hermosa proposed in ocelot habitat in Arizona. In south Texas, three huge liquefied natural gas export terminals are planned right next to the Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. One terminal would sit on – and possibly sever – an ocelot travel corridor identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as vital to the recovery of the ocelot population in Texas. This recovery plan is a starting point, but it will only succeed if harmful developments are stopped and sufficient resources are provided for key conservation actions. Defenders will vigilantly monitor proposed development activities that threaten the future of the ocelot in the United States.”


U.S. ocelot populations, once extending into Arkansas and Louisiana, have shrunk to a small patch of southern Texas, with perhaps 50 animals, and southern Arizona, where only five animals have been detected since 2009. Ocelots, found in every country south of the United States except Chile, are endangered throughout their range. Some 95 percent of the cats’ native habitat in the U.S. has become urbanized or has been converted to agriculture.

Listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1982 as endangered, the species was initially pushed to the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and overhunting. Now, collisions with vehicles and insufficient habitat are keeping ocelot population numbers in the U.S. low. Mines and liquefied natural gas plants are important new threats.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org. For the latest news from Defenders, follow us at @DefendersNews